Florence Travel Guide
The final week of our trip was spent in beautiful Florence. My fiance lived in Florence for a year during college – it’s actually how we met (a best friend from home was in his group and then introduced us – twice!). I’d visited Florence almost twenty years ago and had fond memories. Needless to say, we were both excited for the visit.
The food was superb and much of the city – as mesmerizingly wonderful as always. The downside, however, was that everything was under construction. We ran into this in Rome and Siena as well, but it seemed to be the most extreme in Florence. With the recent influx of money, all the attractions were getting a facelift. Luckily everything was open to visitors except the Accademia where the statue of David lives. So without further ado, here is my Florence Travel Guide…
Two Weeks in Italy: Roaming Rome, Foray in Florence, and Serene in Siena
Where to Stay in Florence | Airbnb
We rented apartments on our trip to save some money and to be able to cook some on our own. We stayed at the top apartment of an old convent in Florence with these rooftops as a view!
Best Gelato in Florence
Not pictured here but implanted firmly in our memories was the most delicious gelateria called Gelateria della Passera, which, as luck would have it, was two doors down from our apartment. This was absolutely the best gelato in Florence. The flavors were rich and delicious – the fruit flavors were actually our favorites but the pistachio and mona lisa were the perfect accompaniments. It reminded us immediately of Ici Ice Cream in Oakland, CA – natural flavors with a foodie approach to ice cream/gelato! Whatever else you do in Florence, this place is definitely a must!!
Fiesole Day Trip from Florence by Bus
We took two day trips during our time in Florence. The first was up to Fiesole, a hill town that gives you quite a view of Tuscany! When I visited Florence many years ago, my parents and I stayed up in Fiesole and it was so much fun to return. It’s an inexpensive $1.50ish to take the bus up to Fiesole, so it’s well worth it!
You arrive in the center of town. As luck would have it, there was an arts fair the day we visited. I bought two necklaces for me and my mom! There are a few views, but this one is the best in our opinion. When you get off the bus, there is a path on the opposite side of the square (to the left). It’s a bit of a hill, but absolutely worth the view. There’s also a cute restaurant up there, but you need reservations. There are gardens to tour (with paid admission) as well as cute streets to meander. It’s definitely a place to relax and enjoy the view!
Above is the famous Duomo. “Duomo” usually refers to just the dome of a church, but here it refers to the whole church. Before arriving in Florence, my fiance told me he thought the Duomo was more awe-inspiring than any other building in Italy, which – let’s face it – is really saying something! When we first arrived in Florence, I immediately understood. While the Colosseum and other sites are grander in size, the detail in architecture and color on such a grand scale is truly amazing. Taking a day to visit and climb the Duomo, Campanile, and the Baptistry is absolutely the one thing you have to do! And then you can get three scoops of gelato that night without guilt!
Lucca Day Trip from Florence
Our second day trip was to Lucca. Originally we’d planned on a day trip to Venice but the €200 round trip price deterred us – we’d been there before and decided we’d rather spend the money elsewhere. So, we hopped on the hour-long train ride to Lucca. It’s a cute, small town and the perfect day trip. There are many churches to visit, but our favorite part was walking along the wall around the city.
Just another cute shot of Lucca. We had cappuccinos (shocker!) at the cafe on the right that were tasty. Where we had lunch though was delicious. Their Tuscan Tomato soup was one of my top two during the trip (photo here). Unfortunately, I neglected to write down the name and google maps is of no help here. The restaurant had an indoor cafe bar and outdoor seating and was very close (practically next to a merry-go-round). I believe it was in the Piazza Napoleone. Sorry I can’t be of more help. I also think any restaurant in Lucca would be tasty!
So familiar with Florence, my guy insisted we climb to the Piazzale Michelangelo. He warned me multiple times that it was a bit of a hike. I told him I could handle it but appreciated the warning. If you’re unable to walk uphill or for long distances, there is a bus that takes you to the top, but the walk up was beautiful in and of itself (see below). But the prize is definitely the view of Florence you get when you do reach the piazzale. The view from Fiesole was broad and amazing, but the height and proximity here (without being in the center of it like when you climb the Duomo steps) is astounding!
And then came the Duomo… This is a shot of the inside of the Duomo – the painting is spectacular. Brunelleschi, the architect and painter of the Duomo, was nothing short of talented! You can get just beneath these murals about halfway up the climb to the top of the Duomo.
Coming down the stairs of the Campanile. Part of the Duomo experience, but in a separate building is the Campanile – bell tower. The steps, height, and view from the Campanile are very similar to the Duomo, but with fewer tight turns and corners.
A few things about climbing all these steps. One, it is a warm, warm experience (nearly 500 steps each), so going in the morning is cooler. Also, not having heavy bags is better! Also, if you’re claustrophobic, the campanile is a better option. There are long lengths of dark and small stairs that twist, turn, and lean climbing the Duomo. The Campanile has periodic breaks and wider staircases (though they are still closed in at times as you can see from above). And, finally, the campanile is a functioning bell tower, so try as hard as possible not to climb the tower when the bells are ringing. I don’t know the times, but the bells started ringing not even five minutes after we walked out and I couldn’t have been more thankful!
Boboli Gardens | Pitti Palace
Some more photos from the Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace. The gardens were beautiful and a bit of an escape in the busy, tourist-filled city. I guess the Medicis knew what they were doing! Find more photos here. Also we enjoyed cappuccinos at Bar Pitti across from Pitti Palace quite a few times.
Speechless. I just thought this was so amazing!